Jay-Z Discusses His Challenges & Goals With Rocawear
In a recent interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Jay-Z dished on everything from dodging bullets as a drug dealing kid to the tremendous unanticipated success of his now 10 year old Rocawear brand.
Annual sales are quickly approaching $1 billion across all the hip hop mogul’s businesses. His empire includes RocNation, Roc-A-Fella Records, part ownership in the New Jersey Nets, 40/40 nightclubs, The Spotted Pig restaurant in Manhattan, and of course Rocawear – which makes up for about $700 million of those sales.
In 2005, Jay bought out co-founder Damon Dash’s 25 percent stake in the company for $30 million.
“Rocawear has always been part of the whole overall culture. It’s connected to everything that I do,” Jay told WWD. “So coming in full time was important to me. It’s something I really believe in and something I want to protect.”
“Dame did a great job when he was here,” he said. “I just feel that I have a different way of running things, which I think is working out well. I let people make mistakes, and push them to be creative. I let a design team design. When they feel good about something they have created, it makes them want to do more. It makes them want to do their best. People are happy here. I’m not a controlling manager and I have a great team that makes me confident that things can run well when I’m on the road, and I’m proud of that.”
Jay was first inspired to start a fashion brand when he was performing onstage back in 1997 and noticed kids rocking Iceberg jeans. He then organized a meeting with the brand along with Dash, in the interest of starting their own line with them.
He admits that he and his partner were in over their heads at the time and it didn’t work out, so the pair proceeded to purchase sewing machines and set them up in the Roc-A-Fella offices with the goal of creating Rocawear logo tees.
“We didn’t know how to sew, and we didn’t really know people who knew how to sew, so we quickly realized that this just wasn’t going to work,” he laughed.
It wasn’t until they approached Def Jam and Phat Fashions founder Russell Simmons that the ball really got rolling. He set them up with apparel manufacturers Alex Bize and Norton Cher, who still remain silent partners in the brand today.
Jay remains humble, refusing to call Rocawear a “celebrity brand”.
“If I focused on that, no one would buy the clothes,” he said. “People rely so much less these days on the logo. They want quality product, which is what I want Rocawear to be known for — we make a damn good pair of jeans…That’s why people buy them.”
In 2007, Jay-Z partnered up with the Iconix Brand Group, which acquired the Rocawear brand for $204 million in cash.
The CEO, Neil Cole, became Jay’s partner and together their goal is to become a $1 billion company. Jay also revealed that he is searching for other brands to run under the Rocawear umbrella.
As with many brands in this economy, he admits his biggest challenge is competing against the Forever 21′s of the world when it comes to the women’s market, and he’s still figuring out what to do to overcome this.
Throughout the interview it is evident that Jay-Z has taken a genuine interest in the apparel business and his brand, learning and facing many obstacles in the market with an upbeat attitude.
What does he consider his biggest mistake?
“We really should have done some Rihanna Rocawear umbrellas when that song became a hit. We could have made a load of money on those. I’m still kicking myself.”
See more from Rocawear on DrJays.com, and check out Boss Lady‘s special Rocawear 10th anniversary video where she discusses the brand’s history, what it means to her and more: